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Mom withdraws plea in infant’s death

Tatiana Fusari

By Judy Reed

A Solon Township woman who was awaiting sentencing for second degree murder in the death of her baby girl has withdrawn her plea and will now face the original charges of one count of homicide-felony murder and one count of first-degree child abuse.

Tatiana Elena Fusari, 29, pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and second-degree child abuse in January, after her husband, Seth Welch, 29, was convicted on the first-degree murder and child abuse charges. Those charges carry a sentence of mandatory life in prison. Fusari’s plea carried a minimum of 25 years.

Fusari’s attorney had originally offered a defense showing she was under duress when the crime occurred, but the judge said it could not be used to defend against the underlying felony–first-degree child abuse—and in the end she agreed to the plea bargain of second-degree murder. However, she was given approval by another judge last Friday to withdraw her plea due to a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling on duress. 

In Michigan vs. Reichard, the Michigan Supreme Court held that duress could be asserted as an affirmative defense to murder if it was a defense to the underlying felony. The opinion is dated March 30, 2020.

Fusari claims Welch abused her physically, mentally and emotionally, leaving her unable to care for their 10-month-old daughter Mary. 

The move is a big gamble for Fusari, because now that she has withdrawn her second-degree murder plea, she will face the original first-degree murder and child abuse charges and risk mandatory life in prison without parole if convicted.

The couple found their baby dead in her crib on Thursday, August 2, 2018, and called authorities at 12:06 p.m. to their home at 16509 Algoma Avenue, known by many in the community as Blackacre Farm. The baby was pronounced dead at the scene.

An officer at the scene reported that the baby’s eyes and cheeks were sunken into her head and her muscles were so weak she could not crawl or lift her head. 

Fusari had said she had fed the baby before going to work at her second shift job. 

In a conversation with the dispatcher, Seth Welch said that they had put Mary to bed at 3 p.m. and found her dead at 10 a.m. the next morning—after 19 hours in her crib. He then waited two hours before calling 911. He said that he had waited before calling 911 because he didn’t know what to do and had called his lawyer first. According to the prosecutor, Welch called his parents, texted someone about selling a goat, and googled why a rapper was kidnapped before he called 911. 

When the dispatcher asked how he was holding up, Welch said, “You know, just another day. It is what it is.” 

They reportedly told investigators they just thought the baby was skinny, like her older sister had been. They had never taken Mary to a doctor because Welch said they didn’t trust them after being reported to CPS by one they disagreed with over the care of their oldest daughter.

An autopsy revealed the cause of death was ruled as malnutrition/dehydration due to neglect on the part of the adult caregivers. The pathologist said he found no metabolic diseases or parasites that would keep her from absorbing nutrients.

Police testified that during the investigation, Welch said his daughter’s death was part of natural selection, and he also told them he wasn’t losing any sleep over it.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office said they had only responded to the home once before on a matter unrelated to child welfare. 

The other two children were removed from the home and placed with grandparents, and a third child, that Fusari had while in jail, was placed with another family.

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